Since I first came to Washington, D.C., more than 40 years ago, I've been honored to work with some incredible people, and my life in public service has provided inspiring experiences for which I shall always be grateful. Three years ago I became a caregiver when my husband, Bob, spent 11 months at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. During that time, and since, I’ve witnessed the incredible challenges facing the caregivers of our wounded warriors.
I saw a wife sleeping on a pallet next to her husband's bedside. I watched a mother tape Bible verses to the walls of her son's hospital room for inspiration and encouragement and saw a father keeping vigil day and night over his paralyzed son. The devotion, courage and love I saw were inspiring and deeply moving. And as I learned, their challenges only multiplied as they transitioned home.
Shortly after this experience, I established Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation to raise awareness and support for America’s hidden heroes. Right now there are 5.5 million military caregivers across America, according to a RAND Corp. study my foundation commissioned. The newest generation of caregivers from America's longest period of war has very urgent needs right now as they’re tending to multiple and serious wounds — both visible and invisible. In addition to their direct caregiving role, they must maintain emotional stability, manage medications and rehab, handle the family's financial and legal matters and often raise children as well.
That's why I asked the highly respected Military Officers Association of America to work with my foundation to bring together the accumulated knowledge of public and private organizations, as well as the wisdom of a nationwide network of caregivers and other subject matter experts, to assemble this online guide as a legal and financial resource for heroic caregivers of all generations.
Meeting the needs of military caregivers is a societal problem that requires a national response. These hidden heroes toil for years, even decades, in quiet humble service and have earned our deepest respect and admiration. I'm grateful to the Military Officers Association of America for helping to meet this urgent need.